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Emerson campus plagued with 'racially charged and offensive' vandalism

Posted by Your Town  February 22, 2013 05:49 PM

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In less than two weeks, several acts of “racially charged and offensive” vandalism have been committed on the Emerson College campus, according to college officials.

College officials said Thursday that a phrase derogatory to whites was found scribbled in an elevator in the Paramount residence hall this past weekend. On Wednesday night, Emerson officials were told that a derogatory term toward women was found written on a student’s white board as well as on a bulletin board in Piano Row residence hall.

Emerson College officials also confirmed today that the phrase “wake up white America” was also uncovered Wednesday night on the men’s bathroom mirror in the Iwasaki Library.

“Hurtful acts like these cause harm to all members of our community and undermine the ability of students to learn and study in the context of a safe and supportive environment,” the letter said. “These recent events have a detrimental effect on the campus climate.”

And in a letter to the Emerson community dated Feb. 11, Dean of Students Ronald Ludman reported that vandals defaced an elevator with an “offensive and hurtful act of vandalism.” On Feb. 9, a word derogatory to blacks was scrawled on the exterior of an elevator in the Little Building residence hall, and another offensive phrase was written inside the elevator.

The letter said that the graffiti had been removed by facilities personnel. Residents of the Little Building were notified about the incident that same day.

“An act of intolerance against any member of this community is an act of intolerance against all of us,” Ludman wrote. “Hateful graffiti is a clear violation of this College’s principles of civility and decency. Each of us has a responsibility for shaping the community climate under which we live, work and learn.”

Emerson college officials said the identities of the vandals are unknown, and that the investigation is ongoing.

Sylvia Spears, the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion at Emerson College, said in a phone interview today that there is no evidence suggesting these incidents are related.

Spears also said that no college campus is immune to acts of offensive vandalism.

"It’s not unexpected that on occasion something like this will happen on a college campus," she said. "And it provides real teachable moments for our community."

In response to these incidents, “community gatherings” were held in the Little and Paramount residence halls, the message said. A similar meeting will take place in
the Piano Row residence hall. The college will also be offering diversity education programs through the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and the Division of Student Affairs.

"Sometimes people will do something that they think is funny or what they perceive as harmelss, or acting out," Spears said. "And it's our job as educators to help the community and whoever committed these acts ... to recognize that their intentions might have just been to be provocative, but that the impact on members of our community might be different than they intended."

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe.com. For campus news updates, follow her on Twitter @klandergan.

Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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